In the 1960's Hydra became a center for bohemian artists to meet, authors and the shining inner circle, and until today the island still constitutes a popular vacation destination for the residents of Athens and many tourists. There are excellent restaurants and fun night life.
Many vacationers come to the beaches of the island. Hydra is a special island in Greece, it is less an island for spectacular beaches and more a place for a relaxing atmosphere, calm and special. This may have to do with the fact that no motorized vehicles are allowed, no motorcycles or cars, or motorized boats. Moving between the island villages is by mules only, there are no roads or traffic lights on the island. This might sound outdated, but it is exactly what gives Hydra its special charm, and turns it into a first class day trip destination for tourists coming from Athens.
In the past Leonard Cohen bought a house near the monastery on the island, the legendary singer-writer. He lived here for a long period, and inspired by Hydra and its atmosphere, he wrote some of his most famous songs here.
The big stone houses were built by rich locals on the island in a style that characterized the strong merchant cities of the Mediterranean Sea. The houses surround the port until today and remind of the Italian cities Genoa and Venice.
The old canons that are still on the walls of the port of Hydra, directed towards the sea, tell the tales of the need to fortify the port and defend access to it, from hostile guests and unwanted forces. The fact that it was able to defend itself in those times, Hydra was more or less an independence island, that somehow managed to distance itself from the rule of the Ottomans then, who ruled Greece.
The independence war of Greece turned the merchants of the island to supporters, and they made a fleet of boats available for the navy of the Greek rebels of the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to this fleet, one of the most important factors in the Greek victory, the Turks were removed, and Greece gained its independence. Georgios Kountouriotis, a Hydra born local, one of the independence war heroes, became the Prime Minister of Greece in 1848.
From here, Hydra became a peaceful and serene place, until the 1960's, when it was 'occupied.' This time, the occupiers were celebrities and well-known people, like the singer Leonard Cohen, and the movie star Sophia Loren who moved here during different periods, and made this island famous around the world.